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St. Pete council newcomer Amy Foster targets 34th Street motels

Amy Foster, 36, is the national program manager for the nonprofit EdLab Group.

LARA CERRI | Times

Amy Foster, 36, is the national program manager for the nonprofit EdLab Group.

New to politics, Amy Foster, 36, entered St. Petersburg's District 8 City Council race as one of four candidates and emerged the winner on Tuesday. She won with 67 percent of the vote and the endorsements of major unions, elected officials and newspapers. She talked with the Times Friday about the race and her coming four-year term.

What's the first thing you want to get done on the council?

It'll be important to take a step back and listen and learn a little bit, but certainly my priorities really have to do with my platform. So one of the first is dealing with the nuisance ordinance issues and the 34th Street corridor. I know they did a prostitution sting last Friday and there's at least one new motel that's going to come up against the abatement board. That's one of the first things I'll be diving into.

During the campaign, you talked about using a tiered penalty system to go after the city's dodgy motels. Will you be proposing that?

Yeah, I need to talk to our city attorneys about it, but that is something I want to propose. That idea came from Tukwila, Wash., where they look at the ratio of calls for service to the police to the number of rooms in a hotel or apartment building. So if you only have 20 rooms and you're making 100 calls, you're in a different tier than if you have 300 rooms. The city requires different responses from your business based on that ratio. I think one of the things we'll have to be conscious about is you don't want to have people stop calling that really need services.

What do you think of Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman's statement that he might not attend the council meetings?

I don't think it's important to me to have the mayor in the room, but I certainly would want him to be keeping abreast of things and I have full faith that will happen.

A Times poll found that most residents want the Pier torn down, but those who want to keep it say it'd be cheaper to refurbish. Where do you fall?

I need to see the data to really understand it, but I don't believe that it can be done within the $24 million that Mesh Architecture has proposed. Going forward, my top priority would be to bring in the project under budget and with the functions that people want. I'm also concerned about the annual operating subsidies. We have a lot of properties that are getting large subsidies from the city already.

I also want to make sure that we get the broadest input possible so that we don't end up with the same issues as before. We need to reach people where they are: the Saturday Morning Market, festivals, in their neighborhood associations. (Another thing) I really think we need to look at is, almost all of the city's business is done during the workday and that leaves out a lot of working professionals.

This election was your first foray into politics. What do you think about being a public figure now?

I don't think I've even come to terms with what that's going to mean. Certainly I'll use my role to help lead girls and engage them in public affairs, but I've always done that through Girl Scouts and other organizations. Other than that, I want to be accessible and the same person.

Especially after this Pier process, I think people don't feel a sense of trust and transparency and that's something I really want to make sure that as a group we work towards fixing. Even as a candidate, it was really difficult to navigate the city's website. We're going to have to find a way to make it more accessible.

Keeping your day job?

Yes, I'm going to go part time and I have not figured out exactly what that schedule will look like.. I know the council is not a part-time job. But it'll be easier to not have campaigning as a part of that — that was 60 to 80 hours a week.

St. Pete council newcomer Amy Foster targets 34th Street motels 11/08/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 8, 2013 5:08pm]
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